Herbal therapy for treating osteoarthritis

  • Review
  • Intervention


  • Christine V Little,

    Corresponding author
    1. Bournemouth University, School of Health & Social Studies, Bournemouth, Dorset, UK
    • Christine V Little, School of Health & Social Studies, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth House, Bournemouth University, 17 Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 3LG, UK. clittle@bournemouth.ac.uk.

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  • Tessa Parsons,

    1. Institute of Child Health, Systematic Reviews Training Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, London, UK
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  • Stuart Logan

    1. Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, Institute of Health and Social Care Research, Exeter, UK
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The increasing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine appears to be particularly evident amongst people with chronic diseases. In the treatment of osteoarthritis, one therapy that has been identified as having potential benefit is plant and herbal medicine (phytotherapy).


To determine the effectiveness of herbal therapies in treating osteoarthritis.

Search methods

Databases for mainstream and complementary medicine were searched using terms to include all forms of arthritis combined with herbal medicine. We searched the following electronic databases: Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group register, Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field register, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (CCTR), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CISCOM, AMED, CINAHL, Dissertation Abstracts and BIDS ISI. We also searched the reference lists from retrieved trials.

Selection criteria

All randomized trials of herbal interventions in osteoarthritis, compared to placebo. Studies were included according to an a priori protocol and agreement was reached between two reviewers who independently read each selected paper for content and assessment of quality. Papers of any language were included.

Data collection and analysis

Data were extracted independently by the same two reviewers.

Main results

Five studies (four different herbal interventions) met the review criteria. Two studies were suitable for data pooling. It was not possible to draw firm conclusions from the single studies but the two combined studies of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables showed beneficial effects on functional index, pain, intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and global evaluation. No serious side effects were reported.

Authors' conclusions

The evidence for avocado-soybean unsaponifiables in the treatment of osteoarthritis is convincing but evidence for the other herbal interventions is insufficient to either recommend or discourage their use.








搜尋包括Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group register, Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field register, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (CCTR), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CISCOM, AMED, CINAHL, Dissertation Abstracts and BIDS ISI,同時搜尋所選文章之參考文獻。






5個臨床試驗﹝4種不同中草藥﹞被納入此篇回顧,其中2篇包括在統合分析中。無法由單一文獻下強固的結論,但2篇包括在統合分析之avocado/soybean unsaponifiables顯示在功能指標、疼痛、服用非類固醇消炎止痛藥及整體評估有療效。無明顯副作用。


avocado/soybean unsaponifiables顯示有療效,但其他中草藥證據不足。



此翻譯計畫由臺灣國家衛生研究院(National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan)統籌。


大豆未皂化物(Avocado soybean unsaponifiables)對退化性關節炎病患有幫助。關節炎情形時常發生,而某些人可能日趨嚴重而造成失能。一般認為傳統的治療方式的副作用讓人感到不適,因此使得補充療法與另類療法被廣為使用。本回顧的目標為評估治療退化性關節炎的中草藥的證據。在兩個研究當中,大豆未皂化物(ASU)的顯示可能有效果,有待進一步的研究來驗證其功效。其他治療方式的單一研究顯示無法確定柳樹皮製劑(Reumalex)、局部使用辣椒素,以及tipi茶的效果。

Plain language summary

Avocado soybean unsaponifiables show beneficial effects in people with osteoarthritis

Arthritic conditions occur commonly and can be progressively disabling for some people. It is thought that unpleasant side effects associated with conventional treatments for arthritis lead to wide use of complementary and alternative medicine. The objective of this review was to assess the evidence for plant and herbal therapies in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) were shown to have promising results in two studies and further studies would be desirable to verify efficacy. Single studies of other interventions, a willow bark preparation (Reumalex), topical capsaicin and tipi tea, were inconclusive.